Monday, February 14, 2005

Make most of expansion

New York Daily News -
ERShipp thought you may be interested in this article.

Click here: New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - E.R. Shipp: Make most of expansion

Make most of expansion

You might call this barbecue joint Dinosaur a taste of things to come for West Harlem: good food, great vibes and lots of white people.

I happen to like barbecue. I also happen to like, in principle, the idea that this is, in an indirect way, a foretaste of what we can expect when Columbia University expands into an area even more underdeveloped than the West Side rail yards that Mayor Bloomberg wants to transform into a hub for sports, housing and commerce.

Among the vacant warehouses underneath the viaduct at the site - 18 acres between 125th St. and 133rd St. from Broadway to 12th Ave. near the Hudson River - are automotive shops, a beverage distributorship, the popular Fairway supermarket and, since December, Dinosaur, the barbecue joint.

The day Dinosaur's owner, John Stage, signed a lease for the space the eatery occupies on 131st St. and 12th Ave., he learned that he was in the path of the Columbia behemoth.

While Manhattanville, the name for this section of Harlem, fights for survival not just of its name but also of its distinctive elements, Columbia has to fight against its own history of bigfootedness. Remember 1968? It was the hubris of Columbia in large measure to think it could build a gym in Morningside Park, depriving non-Columbians use of the park and of the proposed gym.

In buildings it has acquired, Columbia has been ham-handed in forcing up rents and forcing out non-Columbians, many of them longtime residents of very modest means. That's a real fear for the hundreds who live in the path of the Columbia behemoth. Columbia's desire to assure its place among the crème de la crème of institutions of higher learning may not be of immediate import to some of the residents of Manhattanville. But the university's success can contribute to greater success of those very same residents and their progeny. Columbia estimates a gain of about 9,000 jobs for an area that now has about 1,200; and it promises an economic boon in the millions of dollars.

Having grown comfortable in their discomfort, many local people respond with unrealistic demands of whomever proposes change. Some activists want Columbia to resolve all the problems of all the people living or working in this neck of the woods.

That's not going to happen.

But Columbia is trying. Administrators have convened or attended countless community meetings to lay out the particulars on the Manhattanville expansion. There is also a Web site about the project:

This does not have to be a win or lose situation. There are ample opportunities to do more than succumb to fears and rumors. Come out and speak up.

Originally published on February 13, 2005

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